How to Use a Pressure Washer (Quick Start Guide!)

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 07/07/24 •  5 min read

Whether it’s time for some spring cleaning or just time for a cleanup, a pressure washer is a great way to get many outdoor cleaning tasks done quickly and efficiently. Great pressure washing projects include cleaning: concrete walks, driveways, brick, siding, boats, and vehicles to name a few.

However, knowing proper use and safety is key to accomplishing your tasks without damaging your home or even potentially causing an injury.

With proper knowledge, you can select the right pressure washer for the job as well as decide whether it makes sense to purchase or rent.

Should You Rent or Buy a Pressure Washer?

Before buying a pressure washer, consider how often you will use it. A suitable machine for most home uses is going to cost around $400. Renting for one day will often yield a slightly more professional washer for about $75.

If you also consider gas, oil, and maintenance you should expect to use a purchased pressure washer at least twice a year for the next four years. Otherwise, it’s a smarter move to only rent when you need it.

If you plan to use a pressure washer for more than just outdoor spring cleaning, owning one makes more sense since you not only save the daily rental costs but also the time running the machine back and forth. 

What to Look For If You Buy a Pressure Washer

Whether you are renting or buying, consider the rated flow and pressure of the pressure washer.

Most home tasks are best served by a machine with a flow of three gallons per minute and a pressure of 3000 psi.

If you are buying a pressure washer, you will find a wide array of prices, but the cheapest units will often lack the power needed to do a wide array of tasks.

An undersized unit will also make tough tasks take longer. Meanwhile, the most expensive units are sometimes just overkill for average home projects.

When considering which one fits the bill for your tasks, look not only at the pressure and flow but also the reputation and warranty on the pump and engine. 

Setting Up a Pressure Washer

Setting up a pressure washer can vary from machine to machine.

However, this process is simple if you follow these basic steps:

1. Get Prepared

Start by familiarizing yourself with your pressure washer. Many will have simple step-by-step guidance on the handle.

Next, assemble the parts. You’ll need the pressure washer, high-pressure hose, spray gun, tips, and a garden hose. Before starting, check the oil and gas for proper levels. 

2. Attach The Various Hoses

Attach a heavy-duty garden hose to the threaded fitting on the machine. 

Meanwhile, the high-pressure hose attaches by holding back the knurled collar, pressing firmly onto the barbed fitting, and then pushing the collar forward.

Double-check fitment by gently pulling on the high-pressure hose. Attach the spray gun in the same manner.

3. Hook up The Water Supply

Attach the garden hose to a wall spigot and turn the valve on.

4. Purge the Line

Next, purge the air out of the water lines by lifting the safety latch and depressing the trigger.

5. Start it Up!

Turn on the fuel supply valve and set the choke.

Finally, turn the ignition switch on and swiftly pull the start cord.

Pro Tip: Since the pump is cooled by the water running through it, refrain from running the engine for more than five minutes without using the spray gun.

Choosing the Right Pressure Washer Nozzles

Critical for proper and efficient use of a pressure washer is the selection of the nozzle tip.

The tip largely dictates the angle of flow. Generally, a tighter angle will increase the cleaning ability of the water however concentrating it in a smaller area. It can also increase the abrasion and wear of the material being cleaned.

The goal here is the pick the tip with the widest angle that still accomplishes the task.

While you may need to resort to a more direct tip to remove stubborn dirt, you also increase the possible damage to the work surface, increase streaking, and decrease work speed.

It’s important to also keep in mind that because different manufacturers mark their tips differently, don’t rely on the color alone. Always check the stamping directly on the tip. 

Pressure Washer Safety

While pressure washing may seem no different than cleaning with a regular hose, some key safety concerns need to be kept in mind.

Because the water is at such high pressure, it not only poses direct contact harm but it also will send dislodged materials at high speed, which can cause an eye safety issue.

If you’re cleaning areas with a lot of, or particularly sharp debris, consider not only safety glasses but also water-resistant clothing and closed-toe shoes.

Also, never point the spray nozzle towards someone to prevent an accidental discharge.  


At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.